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Religion and Modernity

4. Late Modernity and Postmodernity

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In this module, we think about changes to modernity in the late-twentieth century, and the impacts that they had on religion. In particular, we focus on: (i) the decline of large industrial centres and “de-urbanisation” as manufacturing became less dominant and digital communications grew; (ii) parallel shifts in thought, as the certainty and confidence of the Enlightenment declined and people began to reject narratives of progress and scientific truth; (iii) different religious responses to this, as some people adopted more personalised forms of spirituality and others sought to recapture certainty through fundamentalism; (iv) whether the terms “late modernity” and “postmodernity” are useful ways to describe these changes.


In this course, Professor Grace Davie (University of Exeter) considers the relationship between religion and modernity. In the first module, we clarify the meaning of the term “modernity”. In the second and third modules, we look at the different trajectories of religion in Europe and the USA, noting that whereas in Europe modernisation entailed secularisation, in the US religion and modernity have been mutually reinforcing. The fourth module explores changes to modernity in the late-twentieth century, how they influenced religion, and whether the terms “late modernity” and “post modernity” are useful in characterising them. In the fifth module, we interrogate whether there is a universal narrative of religion and modernity through Shmuel Eisenstadt’s notion of “multiple modernities”, before concluding with Professor Davie’s thoughts on this question in the final module.


Professor Grace Davie is Professor Emeritus in Sociology at the University of Exeter. She is a leading sociologist of religion and has written widely on religion in the modern world. Her publications include Religion in Public Life: Levelling the Ground (2017), Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox (2015), and The Sociology of Religion: A Critical Agenda (2013).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Davie, G. (2021, October 06). Religion and Modernity - Late Modernity and Postmodernity [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Davie, Grace. "Religion and Modernity – Late Modernity and Postmodernity." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 06 Oct 2021,

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